Photos courtesy Benoit & Associates.
By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse
Mizdirection, making her first start since defeating males in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT), ran down speedy Kindle in the shadow of the wire to register a repeat victory in the $150,000 Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIT) over the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Park Jan. 6.
The 9-10 favorite in a field of five older fillies and mares, Mizdirection was ridden to a half-length victory by Mike Smith. The 5-year-old mare by Mizzen Mast improved to 4-for-4 over the hillside course for trainer Mike Puype and her owners, sports radio personality Jim Rome's Jungle Racing, Danny Grohs, William Strauss, Kevin Nish, and Mike Kramek.
Mizdirection, who surpassed $1 million in career earnings with the victory, has now won six of her past seven races dating back to December 2011. But she had to dig deep for this one.
"Right when you think maybe she's beat, she just digs deep and finds a way to do it," Rome said. "And as I always say in this moment, I could not be more proud of her. She's got another gear. She does not like to lose. When she's got a good target to shoot for, she usually turns out pretty well."
The final time for the about 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:11.94 over firm ground. The race was contested in a cloud burst that began shortly before the start.
Mizdirection won the BC Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 3 coming from far out of it with a bold wide move to score by half a length. This time around, Smith had the gray mare attending the pace as Kindle, the 9-5 second choice, set a more reserved tempo down the hill than she has in the past, getting the opening quarter mile in :21.70 and a half in :43.50.
"When I saw Kindle get away as well as she did and relax as well as she did, the game plan turned into me thinking that I needed to be closer to run her down," Smith said. "If (Kindle) would have come out of there really running, I might have set back a little bit, but she was cool, calm and collected. So I thought I had better be closer, because when she crosses that dirt, she's going to kick. And she did."
Mizdirection pressed the leader coming into the stretch but could not get on even terms with Kindle, who fought on for Edwin Maldonado through the lane. Kindle maintained a 1 1/2-length edge at the eighth pole and it was not until deep stretch that Mizdirection made an impact, getting up just yards from the line under strong urging from Smith.
"My filly actually made me idle for a sixteenth of a mile there, where I wondered if I was going to get there," Smith said. "But she gave me another surge and a nice late kick, and galloped out really well. Hopefully that's an indication that she'll at least get a mile. I certainly believe so. Hopefully I prove myself right."
A determined Kindle was a clear second by 1 3/4 lengths over the French-bred Givine, ridden by Tyler Baze, with Byrama and Broken Dreams following closely. There was one scratch, Curvy Cat.
Puype said he would like to stretch Mizdirection out to a mile for her next start in the $150,000 Buena Vista Stakes (gr. IIT) on the grass Feb. 18.
The trainer said he knew Mizdirection would have to be closer to the pace in the Monrovia because Kindle would have gotten away otherwise. He gave Smith full credit for recognizing the situation.
"His ride won the race," Puype said. "Any other rider doesn't win that race today, no way, because that mare (Kindle) ran great at Hollywood (winning the Cool Air) when she was the lone speed and she's gotten better. She's a runner."
Mizdirection, who won last year's Monrovia by 1 3/4 lengths, was bred in Kentucky by Joseph J. Perrotta out of the Clever Trick mare Deceptive. She sold for $50,000 to agent Alex Solis Jr., who manages Jungle Racing, out of the Casse Sales consignment at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic May sale for 2-year-olds in training.
Never worse than third in her 13-race career, the victory improved Mizdirection's record to 8-4-1 with total earnings of $1,004,621.
Toting top weight of 123 pounds, five more than each of her rivals, Mizdirection paid $3.80, $2.40, $2.10. Tough-luck Kindle returned $3 and $2.60 and was part of an $8.20 exacta. Givine, the longest shot on the board at 29-1, was $4.40 to show.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
MIZDIRECTION AND MIKE SMITH AFTER THE HARD FOUGHT VICTORY